From left to right: Prayut Chan-o-Cha, Prawit Wongsuwan, Pita Limjaroenrat, and Anutin Charnvirakul, (Source: Facebook page.

BANGKOK, THAILAND — From a long-serving politician better known as the “Rolex general” to a fresh-faced challenger, here are some of the candidates vying to be Thailand’s next prime minister after Sunday’s election:

Prayut Chan-o-Cha

Incumbent Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha is running for re-election heading up his newly formed United Thai Nation Party.

One of the masterminds of Thailand’s 2014 military coup, Prayut retained power in a controversial 2019 vote.

The 69-year-old is one of the kingdom’s longest-serving prime ministers, but can only remain in the post until 2025, according to a constitutional court ruling.

Born into a military family in northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima province, Prayut rose from military college to become commander of the prestigious Queen’s Guards in 1980.

In 2010 he was involved in the crackdown on Red Shirt protesters — mostly rural supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a 2006 coup — in which more than 90 people were killed.

He attempted something of an image rehabilitation in later years by releasing poems and songs, including in 2018 a Valentine’s Day ballad “Diamond Heart”.

Addressed to the kingdom, it featured lyrics including “Did you know your smile is my happiness?” and “No matter how tired and difficult, let’s hold hands”.

He is married to a university professor and the couple have twin daughters.

Prawit Wongsuwan

Palang Pracharath Party leader Prawit Wongsuwan is known for his love of luxury watches and skills as a quiet backroom political operator.

Born into a military family in the 1940s, he was a career soldier rising through the ranks to army chief from 2004 to 2005.

A consummate player behind the scenes, he was appointed to the National Legislative Assembly after the 2006 coup, and then in 2008, he was defence minister under the establishment Democrat party.

Prawit went on to be one of the chief architects of the 2014 coup, allying himself closely with Prayut and serving as his deputy prime minister, until they fell out.

The “Rolex general” faced a firestorm of criticism in 2018 after being photographed with 25 luxury watches worth an estimated $1.2 million.

Unmarried and with no children, it will be his first time running for office.

Pita Limjaroenrat

A fresh-faced 42-year-old, the father-of-one is considered a political heartthrob in a sea of ageing politicians.

He was parachuted into the leadership in 2020 after a court dissolved Move Forward’s predecessor Future Forward Party and banned founder and auto parts tycoon Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit from running for office for a decade.

Before being elected a lawmaker in 2019, Harvard-educated Pita was an entrepreneur.

Following his father’s death when he was 25, Pita returned home to run his family’s heavily-in-debt business Agrifood, turning its fortunes around.

Pita, who went to high school in New Zealand, was voted one of CLEO Thailand’s 50 Most Eligible Bachelors in 2008.

In 2012 he married Thai TV actress Chutima Teepanat, and they have a seven-year-old daughter. The marriage broke down in 2019.

His personal Instagram features him and his daughter wearing matching T-shirts, eating ice cream, and riding bicycles backwards.

Anutin Charnvirakul

Health minister and Bhumjaithai party leader Anutin Charnvirakul has become the unlikely face of Thailand’s weed movement after decriminalising the plant in 2022.

The 56-year-old, educated at Hofstra University in New York, hails from one of Thailand’s wealthiest families. A keen amateur pilot, he has claimed to have flown organs for donation.

After entering politics in the 1990s he later served as a deputy minister in polarising billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra’s government, before being slapped with a five-year political ban — like many others — for his association with the party.

After the ban expired he joined Bhumjaithai, becoming leader in 2012 and steering the party into a government coalition in 2019.

As health minister during the pandemic, he came under criticism for his chaotic handling of 2021’s lockdowns and unequal vaccine distribution.

Despite this, Anutin might yet play a kingmaker role in the election’s aftermath, as he did in 2019.


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